Classroom Vocabulary Games

... Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Learning new vocabulary words can be a challenging task for many students. One way to overcome this challenge is to play games that will make learning new words fun by creating a competitive environment. When students compete with one another they tend to put forth more effort and, as a consequence, learn more.

1 Vocabulary Jeopardy

An activity similar to the game show Jeopardy will help students learn and reinforce their vocabulary. Create a series of clues or definitions and answers and put them in different categories such as nouns, verbs and adjectives. The easiest words should be worth the fewest points, while the most difficult should be worth the most points. Divide your class into two to six teams for a classroom competition. You can download a PowerPoint template titled "Big Board Facts" from the University of North Carolina--Wilmington's School of Education Website (see Resources) to conduct your game electronically.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Vocabulary Mimes

Students can play this game individually against the entire class, or you may divide them into teams. Designate one student the vocabulary mime for the first round. Give the mime a card with the definition of the vocabulary word on it and have her mime the definition while the rest of the class attempts to answer it using a vocabulary word from your current lesson. To keep students from simply shouting out the list of vocabulary words, have them wait until the mime has finished and give them one or two guesses to get the answer right. Award points or a prize to the winning team. The student who guesses correctly becomes the next mime.

3 Vocabulary Pyramid

Pair your students off into teams of two to compete with other teams, who stand by and make sure that the other team does not violate the rules of the game. Give one team member a number of vocabulary words that he must describe to his teammate without actually saying the word or other key words that might give it away too easily. Or give the teammate a list of forbidden words he cannot say as he tries to elicit the correct answer from his partner. Encourage students to get creative with their clues.

To set up your pyramid, assign point totals according to the difficulty of each word, with the easiest terms at the bottom and the most difficult on top. Build your pyramid with as many levels as you choose. A pyramid of five levels would have five terms on the bottom, four on the next level, decreasing to the top level of only one word. The top level is the most difficult word and worth the most points.

Make the game more difficult by increasing the number of forbidden words students are not allowed to say.

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.